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WPIAL Soccer ‘Super Saturday’: Pine-Richland stuns, Moon pulls double and Avonworth repeats

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

WPIAL Boys and Girls Soccer ‘Super Saturday’

Saturday, November 5, 2022  |   Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

FINAL – Girls 2A:   Avonworth 2, Mt. Pleasant 1
FINAL – Girls 3A: Moon 1, Mars 0
FINAL – Boys 3A: Moon 3, Ambridge 0
FINAL- Boys 4A : Pine-Richland 1, Seneca Valley 0

SUPER SATURDAY UPDATES

FINAL:  PINE-RICHLAND 1, SENECA VALLEY 0

PINE-RICHLAND WINS IT !  What an upset.  Arguably one of the biggest upsets in WPIAL soccer championship history

It’s the first-ever WPIAL boys soccer title for the Rams.

Pine-Richland denied Seneca Valley’s three-peat WPIAL championship bid with a tremendous team performance that included solid defending and carrying enough possession.

Senior captain Ben Rishel is the goal scoring hero, who made the most of his chance to pounce on a loose ball after a long free kick attempt created some havoc in the box.

“All the respect in the world to Seneca Valley. They’re a proven champions over there,” Pine-Richland’s Head Coach said after winning the school’s first ever district boys soccer title.

“It was a stand-up performance and we knew that we needed to have it. We knew it could come down to a set piece, and it’s nice to see that come to life.  We had to weather the storm. We did enough on both sides of the ball, and we did just that.”

After scoring the goal in the 60th minute, the Rams continued to jam things up in the middle, forcing the Raiders to be patient and build-up possession, but time after time, they thwarted and snuffed out advances by blocking shots, clearing ball and winning second balls.

“We expected exactly what they threw out there,” Seneca Valley’s George Williams said. “Bottom line we didn’t speed it up enough, and we could create out chances.”

POST MATCH INTERVIEWS

Pine-Richland’s Jordan Wiegand, who has led three different boys soccer programs to the WPIAL finals, finally wins a district championship, pulling off the improbable upset against section rival Seneca Valley.

Ben Rishel, a defensive midfielder, has scored five goals this season, so he’s not always the go-to scorer, but was there on the end of a long free kick to give the Rams the lead in the 60th minute.

 

MATCH STATS 

78′ — With Pine-Richland with heavy numbers behind the ball, Seneca Valley aren’t being patient enough. They’re rushing through things. Time running out on 3-peat…

71′ — Another save from Bennett who had great position to stop Will Bruno’s shot from 10 yards after breaking behind P-R defenders on left side

70′ — Long free kick from midfield gets dicey for PR keeper Caden Bennett but he hangs on to it. Getting very nervy now for both sides. Pine-Richland hanging on.

55′ – Credit to Pine-Richland, as they continue to confidently play on fairly even terms with Seneca Valley, defending shots, intercepting passes, winning 2nd balls.

The Raiders are learning that it’s not easy to be a team three times in a season

0-0

@pghsoccernow

HALF – Seneca Valley 0, Pine-Richland 0

Pine-Richland weathered a few late storms, but they’ve been keeping Seneca from getting any clear-cut, dangerous chances.

37′ — Long free kick from midfield for Seneca creates an intial clearance, but then Kamerac’s attempted redirect on open goal (as GK Caden Bennett comes way off line) is blocked by Cale Klaff

21′ — Boy we knew this already, but Seneca Valley’s HC George Williams loves to bring subs in and out. He’s already been bringing on 4-5 at a time twice already. Interesting, Pine-Richland’s Jordan Wiegand doing much of the same.

12′ – Seneca’s been possessing more and bringing more pressure, but so far Pine-Richland keeping strong defensive shap. SV did come close in 8′ — but a trio of PR defenders cleared ball off line.

3′ – In early going, Pine-Richland gets game’s first shot attempt, as ball comes to Colin Zvejnieks at top of box and he gets a little too amped on the attempt sending it way over bar.

5:42 — We stayed ahead of schedule all day — and we’re ready to kick off the final game!


FINAL:  MOON 3, AMBRIDGE 0 (BOYS 3A) 

FULLTIME AT HIGHMARK, AND IT IS A TIGER TWO-FER! For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Moon Tigers boys’ side are WPIAL champions, thanks to today’s 3-0 triumph over upstart Ambridge!

PHOTO GALLERY (Moon vs Ambridge) 

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65′ – Gruca is double-teamed right next to the penalty spot, but he still turns around and gets a shot off that deflects off a Moon leg and bounces over the backline for a goal kick. He’s been the Bridgers’ most entertaining player today, scoreline aside.

51′ – GOAL TO THE TIGERS! Jansson centers for Hildenbrand right in the middle of the box, and Hildenbrand goes right down University Boulevard! The Tigers can taste it…

47′ – Moon has shifted to a 4-2-3-1. Ambridge is now in a more conventional 4-4-2. Meanwhile, Christopher Brancato’s hard strike from 20 yards just misses to the near post. Goal kick for Ambridge.

43′ – A couple close calls for Moon, which picks up right where it left off. First, Hildenbrand’s diagonal ball into the box just misses Jansson. Then, Jansson misses a dangerous free kick from the left wing, over the bar.

HALF — MOON 2, AMBRIDGE 0

39′ – GOAL TO THE TIGERS! A corner kick taken by Corrado at the left flag goes straight to head of Cooper Nickles, and straight into the net, inside the back post!

35′ – Nearly a second for Moon. Jacob Pulhalla finds Davi Jansson wide open on the left wing, but his chip shot goes just over the net, and over a desperate Scheib, for a goal kick.

33′ – GOAL TO THE TIGERS! YOUR KOPAY JUST WENT UP! Aeden Costa, deep on the left wing, with a perfect cross into the box for Ryan Kopay, who makes no mistake about that one!

17′ – Ryan Kopay clubs one from about 30-35 yards right at Evan Scheib, who drops to his left to stop it. The Tigers’ top gun clearly isn’t shy about his own power. 0-0 -MP

16′ – Will Gruca with a great through ball to Anthony Powell, who drives to the net, but is bodied off the ball by Evan Thomas. A great chance for the Bridgers is negated in the nick of time. 0-0 -MP

13′ – Ryan Hildenbrand of the Tigers is shown yellow for a reckless challenge at midfield. The ensuing free kick is well cut out by Moon defending.

Chippy already. What do you expect, third-time around? Credit to Ambridge, they’ve come out flying, making this a fun, open-ended affair early. — JK

3:45 PM — Match kicks off on time!

FINAL:  MOON 1, MARS 0 (GIRLS 3A) 

Moon captures WPIAL Girls Class 3A Championship and ends Mars’ remarkable 80-game unbeaten streak in the process Great match both ways.

Post Match Interviews 

Final Stats

Jared Todhunter Photo Gallery – Moon vs Mars 

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MINUTE-BY-MINUTE

77′ — Moon’s Skylar Leseck takes out Moon’s Piper Coffield, and is booked! Mars getting into desperation mode now.

64′ — Mars cross from left side — and what a great play by Moon keeper Serayah Leech to elevate and beat Piper Coffield to tip the ball and get away from danger.

62′ — Moon on counter, Kendall Dydek sends a nice through ball for Hailey Longwell who times her run behind Mars defenders to get to it, then she shoots from 13 yards just inside right side of box, but it goes over the bar.

52′ — Now a pair of yellow cards to Mars after collision near midfield. Lily Wolf will be sent off for 5 minutes, and HC Blair Gerlich (or someone on the bench??) are also booked.

51′ — Mars ball into box — and few attempts blocked but then Mars’ Ansley Ray redirect attempt is SAVED off the line by Moon’s Ayva Wiech! Wow! What a sequence. Ball definitely was ON the line but cleared off.

HALF — MOON 1, MARS 0

Pretty well played half. Both sides working hard to get into final third, but Moon had the only clear-cut chance, and they made it count.

**Note** that one of Mars’ top players, 2021 All-State selection, Gwen Howell is out with an injury. Tough blow for the Planets Howell, a senior, has been key contributor in 80 gm unbeaten streak, and came up w GW goals in 1st 2 rds of WPIAL playoffs

12′ — GOAL — MOON 1, MARS 0

Tessa Romah!

Left foot shot from close range saved, but right footed attempt goes high and the Tigers lead Mars 12′

 

FINAL: AVONWORTH 2, MT. PLEASANT 1 (GIRLS 2A) 


Pittsburgh Soccer Now Coverage Team

John Krysinsky, Dominic Campbell and Matt Popchock (reporting)

Jared Todhunter and Ed Thompson (photography)

Eight teams, four games and — great weather is anticipated on Saturday at Highmark Stadium!

You can’t beat that if you love soccer and you are from Western Pennsylvania.  For these teams and these players, a chance to play in Highmark Stadium and to lift a trophy with their teammates and represent their schools and communities.

“It’s unlike any other. It’s what every team aspires to accomplish,” Pine-Richland Boys Head Coach Jordan Wiegand said this week.

“To give them such a beautiful environment. The energy levels are a bit higher than any other game.”

Stick with us throughout the day, as we’ll have wall-to-wall coverage of the remaining four WPIAL Boys and Girls championship games to be played.

We will post scores, key in-game updates here and other reaction/video interviews here throughout Super Saturday!


Match Previews 

11 a.m. Girls 2A Final:  Avonworth vs Mt. Pleasant (19-1-0) 

Live Stream:  TribHSSN.triblive.com

#5 Avonworth Antelopes  

Head Coach – J.C. Mahon

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season:  Section 1 Runner-Up (10-2 section record)

WPIAL Playoffs:  def Keystone Oaks; 10-0, def Hopewell, 6-1; def North Catholic, 2-1

#2 Mount Pleasant

Head Coach – Rich Garland

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season: Section 3 Champions (10-0-0)

WPIAL Playoffs:

Avonworth JC Mahon and Mount Pleasant’s Rich Garland bring a pair of teams into a Finals match that are brimming with confidence.

What a great season it’s been for Mt. Pleasant, who are led by Head Coach Rich Garland.  The Vikings last won a section title in 2016, but this year they dominated their section and have looked impressive in the playoffs, most recently beating Freeport, 4-0, thanks to goals Marissa Garn (2) and from sisters Morgan Gesinski and Riley Gesinski. Then they topped South Park again, 1-0.

While Mount Pleasant dominated its section, finishing with a perfect record, Head Coach Rich Garland said on the Kids on the Pitch podcast, it was important to play tough out-of-section competition during the regular season, including South Park, along with Class 3A teams Connellsville, Penn-Trafford and Moon.  They beat both Connellsville and Penn-Trafford by 4-0 scorelines, and their only loss of the season was to defending Class 4A champs, Moon, by 6-0 score.

The WPIAL selection committee obliged with this out-of-conference scheduling and their success and strength of schedule, giving Mount Pleasant a No. 2 seed.

In Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s playoff projections, we had Avonworth a bit higher, but the committee chose to put all of the section winners in the top four spots.  The Lopes have played these playoffs with a bit of a chip on its proverbial shoulders.

They routed their first two opponents in the first round (10-0 win vs Keystone Oaks covered by PSN’s Mark Goodman) and quarterfinal round vs Hopewell by a combined 16-1 margin, then once again avenged their regular season losses to rival North Catholic.  Trailing 1-0, the Lopes strong second half finish, overtook the Trojans, and now they’ll be playing for a second consecutive district crown.

This will likely be a clash of styles, as Avonworth may play a bit more direct than Mount Pleasant. Garland said that his team will look to control the midfield and will want to own the possession battle.


1:15 p.m. Girls 3A Final: Mars (17-0-0) vs Moon (19-0-0)

Live Stream

#2 Moon Tigers 

Head Coach – Bill Pfeifer

Roster 

How they got here: 

Regular season:  Section 4 Champions (12-0-0 in section play)

WPIAL Playoffs:  def Indiana, 9-0, def Oakland Catholic, 2-0; def Plum, 3-0

#1 Mars Planets

Head Coach – Blair Gerlich

Roster 

How they got here: 

Regular season: Section 1 Champions (12-0-0 in section play)

WPIAL Playoffs:  def Penn-Trafford 1-0, def Franklin Regional, 1-0; def Latrobe, 4-3

Since January when PIAA reallignment came out, this is the match many of us who follow soccer closely in Western PA couldn’t wait to see.

Together, since 2015, Mars and Moon have combined for a whopping seven district titles and six State championships.

This year, as Moon inexplicably moved down in classification after winning the Class 4A championship, to no one’s surprise, rolled to a perfect 19-0-0 record.

How much talent will be on the field in this match-up?  Each team is represented by two of the three finalists for the Moe Rosensteel Outstanding Player of the Year award.

The Tigers are led by Hailey Longwell, a Duquesne commit who leads the way, along with a talented and deep group that can score in bunches and don’t give up many goals.

The Planets have Piper Coffield, who’s sister Ellie, won the inaugural Rosensteel Award in 2019, and is now featuring in the central midfield for No. 19 ranked Pitt.  Coffield will take a different path, as she has commited to Indiana University.

The seeds to the current incredible Mars unbeaten run of 80 games were planted going back to 2017, and Moon was then a reigning State and District champion.

We preview the current match and take a look back at that memorable last time these two storied girls soccer programs met in the WPIAL Finals.

Seed for Mars-Moon unprecedented showdown of champions was planted back in 2017

This was the last time, before this season, that both schools were in the same classification. Moon being in the higher end of the enrollment zones, moved up to Class 4A from 2018-21.

This year, Moon topped a talented Plum squad, 3-0, in the semifinal, while Mars, knocked off another school that dropped down from 4A to 3A, Latrobe, with 4-1 win in the other semifinal on Monday night.


3:45 p.m. Boys 3A Final: Ambridge (14-6-1) vs Moon (19-0-1) 

Live Stream:  TribHSSN.triblive.com

#1 Moon Tigers

Head Coach – Earl Pannebaker

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season:  Section 2 Champions (12-0-0 in section play)

WPIAL Playoffs:  defeated No. 17 Ringgold, 6-1, No. 8 Bethel Park, 6-0, No. 13 Montour, 2-0

#11 Ambridge Bridgers 

Head Coach – Ben Fiore

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season: Section 2 second place

WPIAL Playoffs:  defeated No. 6 Hampton, 3-0, No. 3 Thomas Jefferson, 7-1, and No. 2 Plum, 2-1 in overtime.

Sometimes for the best perspective, you have to go right to the source.

In our case, ahead of this very interesting match-up, we turn to PSN contributor who has been a coach as part of the South Fayette boys soccer program the past few years, Jordan Smith, who was at the semifinal matches in Boys Class 3A.

Smitty filed this recap of the semifinal matches, along with a terrific preview of the final between Ambridge and Moon, with everything you’ll need to know.

WPIAL Boys Soccer Class 3A and 2A Semifinal Round Scoreboard (10/31/2022)

In addition, PSN’s John Krysinsky had Ambridge Head Coach Ben Fiore on this week’s WPIAL Finals Preview edition of his podcast, Kids on the Pitch.

Kids on the Pitch Podcast: WPIAL Boys and Girls Soccer Championships preview

This will be the first trip to the WPIAL finals for Ambridge, while it’s been a long time for Moon, though both programs have a lot of tradition.  Moon has won five soccer titles, but you have to go back some way for those. (2003, 1990, 1986, 1985, 1983).

5:45 p.m. Boys 4A Final: Pine-Richland (14-4-2) vs Seneca Valley (17-0-1)

Live Stream

#1 Seneca Valley

Head Coach – George Williams

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season:  Section 1 Champions (11-0-1 in section play)

WPIAL Playoffs:  defeated No. 8 Upper St. Clair, 4-0, and No. 4 Fox Chapel, 3-2.

#6 Pine-Richland 

Head Coach – Jordan Wiegand

Roster

How they got here: 

Regular season: Section 2 third place (behind Seneca Valley and Fox Chapel)

WPIAL Playoffs: defeated No. 3 Norwin, 3-1, and No. 7 Butler, 1-0.

Confident Pine-Richland looks to disrupt Seneca Valley’s bid for historical WPIAL three-peat

Before the season began, Pine-Richland Head Coach Jordan Wiegand was a guest on the first edition of the Kids on the Pitch podcast, and we posed the question: Can anyone knock off Seneca Valley this season?

‘Anything’s possible,” Wiegand said, but then turned his attention to his team, and acknowledging the rigors of playing in Class 4A.

Wiegand wasn’t as concerned about Seneca Valley getting knocked off the block at the start of the season — he was more concerned about his team finally breaking through to earn a playoff spot.  In his first three seasons at the helm, the Rams kept falling just short of the playoffs in the ultra difficult Section 1.

“I said in the beginning, it’s all about making it,” ” Wiegand said.

“And then building confidence from there.”

Not only have Wiegand’s Rams made it to the school’s first-ever appearance in the WPIAL Boys Soccer Championship game, but now they’re the last team that has a chance in the WPIAL season to defeat the Raiders and prevent a three-peat.

The massive Butler County School District can pretty much stake the claim that they now have a powerhouse program, which is on the treshold of something very special, winning three consecutive District championships in the highest classification.

This hasn’t happened in the modern era of WPIAL boys soccer.  You have to go back to 1971, when Springdale capped off four straight, and seven in eight years.

That was a much, much different time.

In 2022, winning at the highest level of high school soccer requires a deep roster and a talented player pool.  It also helps that they have one of the most longest tenured, and most successful coaches in WPIAL soccer history, George Williams. Seneca all the respect in the world. They’re a phenomenal team.  They’ve been a powerhouse the last four year. They have talent at every level,” Wiegand said, then added that it helps to know what to expect when playing them, as the Rams shouldn’t be blindsided the third time around.

“It’s kind of nice. They’re a familiar opponent.  They’re familiar with us too.”

Many of the players, who don’t live too far from each other in the areas hugging the Allegheny and Beaver County borders, know each other all too well, having played against each other for years, going back to youth soccer days.

The big name players that Pine-Richland will have to contend with, include Beau Lizewski, who was the hero of the 2020 classic shootout between SV and Peters Township. Lizewski and Connor Oros were Seneca’s two players named to the all-State team this week.

In their 3-2 semifinal win, Lizewski, Max Marcotte and Will Bruno each scored, to give the Raiders a 3-0 advantage by the 65th minute.

Fox Chapel battled back and found some chinks in the Raiders armor, but it was too little, too late.

The Raiders aren’t completely invinceable when it comes to stopping teams, as they’ve allowed 11 goals this season, but that may be because they don’t have any intention of slowing down and throwing numbers forward.

The Rams, which have a group of seniors that have been together since Wiegand arrived on the scene a few years back, rely on a multitude of players to contribute. They had four different goal scorers in the first two games of the playoffs. Colin Zvejnieks found the net against Butler and Ethan Wygant, Nathan Bang and Sam Engel were goal scorers in the win against Norwin.

“We have to find moments. Make it more challenging for them,” Wiegand added.

“And, of course, weather the storm at times. They may have barrage of shots in two minutes.  We’ll have to maintain our composure.”

Having won six of their last seven games, giving up a total of four goals during that stretch, the Rams have the most important ingredients late in the season: belief and confidence.

Pine-Richland are the last team in the way of denying Seneca’s place in history. If they can weather the Seneca storms, and hang around in this match, they’ll have a fighter’s chance to end a weekend full of great soccer action with a bang.

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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